It isn't every day that suspects operate an illegal gambling operation in broad daylight just blocks away from law enforcement.
It's also rare for those operating such an enterprise to invite the local police chief to play a few games.
But that's what four out-of-town suspects did Monday to Manning Police Chief Blair Shaffer, whose department arrested two men and two women Monday in the parking lot of a local store where he alleges the foursome were running games of chance that offered big prizes and payouts, but which had little chance of paying off.
Shaffer said Wednesday the suspects were charged with gambling, gambling equipment violations and peddling without a business license. Those charged included Jessica Faye Kennedy, 26, of 363 Hampton St. in Elloree; Kennan E. Kennedy, 28, of 119 Franklin St. in Darien, Georgia; Logen E. Kennedy, 28, of 119 Micanopy Court in Santee; and Kimberly A. Dallas, 53, of 108 Bouldercrest Trail in Saint Matthews.
The suspects, he said, were using a "backgammon" board, where "players" who paid $5 got a chance to throw eight small balls onto a board with numbered slots.
"The numbers would add up, and they would then distract the so-called player while they added it up, and then you'd look at the numbers board to see what you won," Shaffer said. "One of the suspects would typically approach folks in the parking lot of the store and hand them a ticket for a prize that entitled them to a free throw, and that's how they'd get people over there."
Shaffer said police were first alerted to the operation about two weeks ago when a woman came in to file a complaint about an alleged scam.
"The more she got to talking, the more we realized it was gambling," Shaffer said. "We went ahead and took the report, and she had told us they had a trailer and what it looked like, so we were looking out for it while patrolling."
Cpl. W.B. Secrist II and Patrolman John Daniel Lighthill III saw the suspects set up at a store on Boundary and Huggins streets in Manning on Monday afternoon, and were invited by the suspects to play a few rounds. The suspects then invited Shaffer to play when he showed up.
"I rolled, and they told me to look at the board, and I asked what I'd won," Shaffer said. "They told me I lost $5. I told them they were going to jail."
The suspects, he noted, had a huge trailer, with prizes hanging up outside and inside, much like they do at carnivals.
"They'll have stuffed animals, jackets, shirts, koozies and stuff like that hanging up," Shaffer said. "And then they'd have big-ticket items like flat screen TVs, a nice computer, DVD players and electronic merchandise."
The game board required "almost astronomical odds" to win those larger prizes, which also included huge cash payouts up to $3,200.
"You have to get 100 points; the only way to get 100 points is to get a 48 or an 8," Shaffer said. "So you have to land all those eight balls on slots with the No. 1. Or, all eight have to land on the slots with the No. 6."
The board has only 10 Nos. 1 and 6.
"There's 130 slots in the board," Shaffer said. "There's 10 2's, 10 5's, but there's 45 3's and 4's."
Numbers adding up to between 8-16 and 39-48 give the player points. One-hundred points means a winning "customer."
There are also "raises." Shaffer rolled one time in front of The Manning Times on Wednesday and his total was 30.
"On the chart, 30 means a raise, which takes you to the money board," Shaffer said. "You can bet $5 for a double win, and so on up to $3,200."
Shaffer said he and his officers rolled about 50 times themselves, and "no one ever rolled a combination that ever gave any kind of points."
Shaffer said the suspects fooled players into thinking they had large amounts of cash on hand by flashing supposed wads of $2,000 and $1,000 in $100 bills. He said the wads of money were in fact $1 bills wrapped in one $100 bill each.
Shaffer said the suspects arrested Monday only had about $429 in cash on them. He said more than $7,750 in property and equipment was seized. He added that he's unsure how much money any potential victims lost on the gambling, but he's aware of one Davis Station resident who lost as much as $5,000 playing there.
"He bet $1,200 on one roll when he was at 99, and there's no way he's just gonna get one point," Shaffer said. "He lost $2,400 in two rolls."
Shaffer said while the suspects charged Monday will likely only face up to a year in prison or a $500 fine for the offenses, he wants the public to know these games of chance are both illegal and ill-advised.
"If it's sounding too good to be true, it probably is," Shaffer said. "I just want the public to know. It's gambling, but I consider it more of a scam. There's absolutely no way anyone could win playing this game. It is completely rigged against you. And they distract the players while they're supposedly adding up your numbers."
Shaffer said he is awaiting an order from a Magistrate Judge to destroy the gambling materials confiscated Monday.